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Whether you already live in cottage country, are contemplating relocating here, or are looking to purchase a family cottage, let LuxuryMuskoka be your lifestyle guide. Lifestyles Editor Dee Dee Weiland shares a lifetime of knowledge as a resident, cottager, and Realtor to help you make the most of your luxury living in Bracebridge Ontario.
Muskoka is one of the most beautiful areas in Ontario, and an obvious choice for anyone looking to get away from city life and into nature.
If you’re looking to make the permanent move to cottage country, want a home away from home, or just a quick weekend getaway, Bracebridge Ontario is the place to be. Bracebridge’s iconic waterfalls, beautiful lakes and vibrant community make it a perfect place to be year-round.
Here’s our useful, practical guide to all the best places to stay, eat, and play in the heart of Muskoka – they’ll have you feeling like a local in no time.
Luxury Living in Bracebridge Ontario
Welcome to Bracebridge – The ‘Heart of Muskoka’
Bracebridge truly is the heart of Muskoka – and not just because it is the seat of the Muskoka District, but also because of the vibrance and vitality it brings to the region. The town is a four-hour drive from Ottawa and just a short two hours from Toronto (although any local will tell you to double that with traffic on the Friday of a nice weekend). It’s right off Highway 11 on the Muskoka River, which runs through the iconic Bracebridge Falls at the centre of town.
The town of Bracebridge has an annual population of around 16,000 and an extra 7,000 seasonal residents who pick and choose their favourite climate to visit in, whether it’s our snowy and cold winters, hot and sunny summers, or the crisp and colourful autumn. Bracebridge is well-known for its historic main street, beautiful waterfalls and wilderness, and, above all, its great community of locals, cottagers, and visitors.
Find out more about the ‘Heart of Muskoka’, as well as useful information regarding living in Bracebridge Ontario, on the Town’s website at www.bracebridge.ca/en/index.aspx.
What You Need to Know About Bracebridge Real Estate
Looking for real estate in Bracebridge can be a bit daunting since its natural beauty makes this area a highly desirable place to live. Luckily, there are lots of different options beyond those classic Muskoka cottages that you might want to check out.
One often-overlooked housing option in Bracebridge is the condo market. There are a lot of condos for sale in Bracebridge, both in the town itself and in the surrounding area. Some are also affiliated with resorts, such as Touchstone, a luxurious resort and housing development which looks out over Lake Muskoka.
When people think of water-side real estate in Muskoka, they usually think of the ‘Big 3’ lakes: Lake Muskoka, Lake Rosseau, and Lake Joseph. But there are actually around 1,600 lakes in the area with great spots to settle into.
There’s also the Muskoka River, which has a ton of luxury Muskoka real estate to offer while maintaining that water access. And if you don’t find a place that suits your tastes, Bracebridge is home to some amazing custom builders who can transform a piece of land into the home of your dreams.
The Serious Stuff – Bracebridge Schools, Healthcare, and Services
Bracebridge may be a small town, but it has a strong infostructure that’s constantly growing and developing to support the community. The town has six elementary schools and two high schools, and a variety of great programs within those schools including K-12 French immersion, the Special High Skills Major program, and even a few Advanced Placement classes.
Most of the schools are a part of the Trillium Lakeland District Schoolboard, which ranges from the District of Muskoka into Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton. But there are also several schools here that fall under the umbrella of the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, as well as a Montessori school, so there’s a wide range of educational opportunities available.
Bracebridge also has a strong healthcare system, which includes the South Muskoka Memorial Hospital with a 24/7 emergency room and a network of doctors’ offices and clinics in the area. There are also several pharmacies in town, and larger hospitals in nearby Barrie and Parry Sound, so you’ll definitely be well taken care of while you’re here.
Find out more about living in Bracebridge Ontario at www.bracebridge.ca/en/live-here/Live-Here.aspx.
The Fun Stuff – Things to do in Bracebridge
With all the natural beauty around, there’s no shortage of things to do and places to explore in Bracebridge. The town is known for its stunning Bracebridge Falls, but there are actually many smaller falls around town that you should definitely check out, like High Falls and Wilsons Falls. Many of these are accessible through the Great Trail, a network of over 27,000 kilometres of multi-use trails that run all over the Muskoka region – great for hiking and biking in the summer, and snowshoeing and Nordic skiing in the winter.
Of course, you can’t mention fun things to do in Muskoka without mentioning the lakes. From boating and water skiing to stand-up paddle-boarding and kayaking, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy the water in Bracebridge. Even if you’re not on the waterfront, there are tons of public beaches and boat launches – a few local favourites are Kirby’s Beach on Lake Muskoka and the wharf at Bracebridge Bay Park.
On top of the many ways to enjoy nature, there are also some interesting attractions and events to check out in Bracebridge. In the summer, the Santa’s Village theme park opens up. Here you and the kids can ride roller-coasters and go-carts, or maybe visit the aerial park. And, of course, you can also meet Santa himself in his very own Muskoka cottage.
Come winter, Bracebridge has its famous Fire and Ice festival, where the entire main street gets turned into a massive sledding hill.
For more info, visit https://bracebridgechamber.com/things-to-do.
Bracebridge Sports & Recreation
One of the go-to places for sports in town is the Bracebridge Sportsplex. This multi-million dollar rec centre has everything, including:
- Three swimming pools
- A rock-climbing wall
- Indoor- and outdoor running tracks
- A weight room and fitness studio; and
- A gymnastics centre
They also run tons of programs and classes for kids and adults, which is great for trying out a new sport or staying motivated in the gym.
If you’re looking to get into some outdoor sports, Bracebridge LIV Outside rents out gear and guides for all kinds of outdoor adventures including kayaking and canoeing, rock climbing, and road and mountain biking. The Bracebridge Resource Management Centre is a great place to hit the trails on a bike, or on skis in the winter with nearly 20 kilometres of groomed trails that are free to use.
Muskoka is known as one of Canada’s best destinations for golf, with many top-notch courses in the area like the Muskoka Highlands. If traditional golf isn’t your sport, there’s also a great frisbee golf course run by the Dads of Muskoka at Peake Fields. This 18-hole course goes through the woods and over a creek and is a great way to spend an afternoon in Bracebridge.
For more info regarding recreational living in Bracebridge Ontario, check out www.bracebridge.ca/en/be-active/Activities.aspx.
Arts & Culture in Bracebridge
The Muskoka region has been inspiring artists for decades – you just have to look at a Group of Seven painting to see the landscape reflected back at you. The area is still home to many incredible visual artists whose work can be seen displayed in places like the Chapel Gallery in Bracebridge or the Muskoka Arts and Crafts Summer Show. This show runs for a weekend in July, and features artists, vendors and craftspeople from around the region in one of Ontario’s largest and oldest outdoor craft shows.
Bracebridge also hosts some amazing shows and theatre productions. The Rene M Caisse Theatre is a 300-seat state-of-the-art auditorium where a variety of different shows are held, from local productions and recitals to touring shows, concerts and film screenings.
You can also catch some summer theatre in the park with one of Muskoka Stageworks’ productions, or dinner and a show with Dragonfly Theatre Company. You could even see some talented local musicians playing at events downtown or on the patio of your favourite restaurants.
Find out more at www.bracebridge.ca/en/explore/create.aspx.
The Bracebridge Food & Drink Scene
Bracebridge has a great range of restaurants from fine dining to pub-style, so there’s bound to be something that suits whatever mood you’re in. If you’re looking for a more elevated night out, you might consider heading to Riverwalk, where you can enjoy a delicious farm-to-table meal while you look out over the Muskoka River.
Or maybe try Wabora where you can enjoy some fresh handcrafted sushi or eat at the hibachi grill. And if you’re craving some authentic Mexican cuisine, try the always-fresh El Pueblito on Main Street.
If you’re a beer enthusiast, you’ve got to sample some beers from Muskoka Brewery, either straight from their taproom or at one of our local pubs. The Griffin Gastropub has local live music throughout the week as well as some amazing food. Another place to get some great local beer is the Lake of Bays Barrelhouse, which serves the brewery’s core brews as well as some more experimental beverages made on-site.
Fine Thymes is a bit of a Bracebridge hidden gem, with an intimate setup and delicious food that makes it perfect for a lunch date. Another great lunch (or brunch!) spot is the Main St Deli, which has an awesome selection of classic sandwiches and cocktails. If you’re looking for something quick while you’re on the go, maybe try The Burger Shop or The Oven Woodfire Pizza, or grab some delicious Kawartha Dairy ice cream from Mama Bears.
Where to Shop in Bracebridge
Downtown Bracebridge is absolutely packed with stores offering everything you could need or want. For picking up the essentials, there’s the usual supercentres and a selection of grocery stores, but there’s also a lot of local alternatives.
Check out the Muskoka Natural Food Market for fresh produce and bulk pantry ingredients, or McMaster’s Muskoka Fine Foods for fresh meat from pro butchers. There’s also a weekly farmers market all summer long in Memorial Park with local vendors, which is a must-visit!
Our historic main street has a ton of fun and trendy stores as well, including clothing boutiques, jewellers, art galleries, and even a music store. And if you want some equipment for all-season fun, check out Algonquin Outfitters for everything from water trampolines to snowboards.
Find out more at www.downtownbracebridge.com.
Try Before You Buy – Where to Stay in Bracebridge
If you’re thinking of making the move to Bracebridge, you might be interested in coming for a visit before you commit. Luckily, there are tons of places to stay in the area, including a good number of world-class luxury Muskoka resorts. One of the best of these, Touchstone Resort, features some of the best lake views in all of Muskoka.
For a hotel right in Bracebridge, try Inn at the Falls, which has amazing views of the Muskoka River and is located near the downtown core. There are also a number of great family resorts in the area that offer traditional Muskoka accommodations, and which are great for getting a feel of what lake living is all about.
Of course, if you’re thinking of getting a Bracebridge cottage, nothing beats the real thing. There are tons of Muskoka cottages for rent which are sure to sell you on the unique cottage country lifestyle, including a number of extremely luxurious ones. There are a number of services that you can rent through, including Airbnb, which offers anything from a small cabin to a full-size cottage and dock.
Dee Dee Weiland is Lifestyles Editor of LuxuryMuskoka, a member of The Weiland Team real estate professionals, and an expert on lifestyles and living in Bracebridge Ontario.
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